Though the MS diagnosis did not come until 2009, walking challenges struck in 2002—probably 10 years into the disease. Two years later, when my friend told me: “Get a scooter, you need to stop falling,” I knew from experience that each “benefit” related to my handicap cost more than I was willing to pay—and I don’t mean monetarily. I understood her intentions; she cared about me and I was barely mobile with a cane. But my life was incomplete. I’m not finished. I’m still not done!
In the time between my diagnosis and The Wahls Protocol, I read about and tried a slew of non-medical treatments including HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen treatment), NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique), the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, Reiki, Yoga, acupuncture, hippo Therapy (horseback riding), chiropractic adjustments, tapping (EFT and TFT), meditation, psychotherapy and massage. I read about (and took) a variety of supplements that promised to help. I even ended relationships with people who didn’t believe in my recovery. Each activity seemed to help, but my walking ability continued to decline.
By the time The Wahls Protocol was published in 2014, all it took to adapt the diet were to eat more vegetables and stop eating yogurt. No problem! On the other hand, I was slow to notice changes. I’d been doing a lot of things right for a long time. I added physical exercise to my routine—dance steps to Latin music. I seemed to have more energy and fewer leg cramps, but I still couldn’t walk well.
Later in 2014, I participated in the internet coaching offered by Terry Wahls and Leanne Ely. Moving to Wahls Paleo and Paleo Plus was easy for me. Then, during the third set of lectures, I finally understood what Terry had always said; if I wanted to walk, I’d need an expert to help me.
That’s when I found Greg English, a rehabilitation therapist with 30 years’ experience in addressing neurological problems ranging from strokes and traumatic brain injury, to MS and Parkinson’s disease. His mission to take people from the end of physical therapy to well without charging them more than they can bear opened the doors to hope and inspiration.
Among his MS clients, I was still in good shape. I could still drive and navigate independently, albeit slowly, into the gym. In our first session, he put me on the treadmill where I walked for almost 2 minutes at .5 mph. He conveyed confidence that I could achieve my goals—whatever they might be. Thus began what seems like a never ending process I call “Learning to Walk.”
Do date, I’ve stayed with him for 16 months watching people come and go. Recovery requires dedication and consistency—things that are difficult for people with neurological problems. I didn’t think about those qualities much before I saw people stop progressing because they stopped showing up. I’ve wondered why I could hang in there along with a handful of extraordinary people who, guided by vision and determination, are willing to pursue “impossible goals.” What I brought to this effort is a recognition that anything worth pursuing does not come easily, coupled with the awareness that hard work can overcome limitations.
I’ve already achieved two “impossible goals”—a hike up Mt. Rubidoux last April and a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving—both with the help of walking sticks and encouragement of a friend. Additionally, I obtained certification as an Eating Coach from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and am studying to be a Wahls coach.
Presently, I am in training for the third “impossible goal”—walking the Carlsbad 5000 in April 2016 without sticks. The 5K is not my real goal—but a context for what I really want—to walk and teach others how to choose and stay on a path that leads to vitality. More than anything, I want to inspire others to keep showing up to their challenges. For that, I’m learning to walk.